Miami.- The SpaceX company’s Dragon Endeavour capsule arrived on Sunday at the International Space Station (ISS) with two NASA astronauts on board, about 19 hours after its successful launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. This is the first spaceflight with humans from American soil to the ISS since Atlantis made the last voyage of the transshipment era in 2011.
The Crew Dragon capsule, which NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley named «Dragon Endeavour», docked to the ISS without any problem following a series of approach maneuvers that lasted approximately two hours. The ship arrived about ten minutes before the scheduled time and completed the final approach maneuver at 10.17 local time (14.17 GMT) at the height of China’s northern border with Mongolia, having taken off to the tip of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center to millions of people who followed the live broadcast via the internet. After waking up at about 4.45am (8.45 GMT) Hurley and Behnken tested the ship’s maneuverability to certify the shuttle’s functionality about thirty minutes before docking, after which they re-activated the autopilot.
The capsule, designed to autonomously dock the Harmony module, joined the ISS under the watchful eye of astronauts and workers on Earth, who controlled the capsule’s approach at all times. This was the slowest part as a shock in space is potentially fatal so it approached a speed of 10 centimeters per second during the last few meters. After matching the pressure inside the ferry with that of the ISS, approximately two hours after docking, the hatch will open and the on-board crew will welcome Hurley and Behnken.
The astronauts will join Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner and American Chris Cassidy, who traveled to the ISS on April 9 aboard the Soyuz ferry and who will spend about six months there until completing their mission. At the moment, the duration of the Demo-2 mission that aims to certify the SpaceX company’s ability to conduct commercial space travel is unknown, but astronauts are estimated to spend 6 to 16 weeks in the ISS. During that time they will conduct technical and scientific research until their return to Earth, which, if satisfactory, will be the final step before starting NASA’s operational missions supported by private companies.
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